Abs. Abs. Abs. I don’t know one person that isn’t working towards strengthening their abs. There is every type of workout you can imagine for them, and I’m guessing you’ve tried as many as I have. It wasn’t until my postpartum journey that I decided to actually take a step back from crunches, sit ups and planks to evaluate why my core never got stronger with those exercises.
Listen… I watched a lot of tutorial videos, bought into way too many programs and reached out to experts in pelvic floor functionality. And let me tell you, you do not need to be postpartum to do these exercises and to start to strengthen your core. You can start at any time (but I am not a doctor and cannot advise specifically, these are simply movements that worked for me). So, functional. Why emphasize it? Obviously we use our core throughout the day with daily activities. So why not strengthen that movement so daily functions are easier to do? Say less.
The four functional core movements I added to my daily routine are:
- Toe Taps
- Weighted Knee Up Marches
- Around the Worlds with kettlebell
I always warm up with Cat Cows before starting any of these. If you’re newer to these movements, go slow; start with 2 sets of 20. If you’ve been adding core movements to your routine, try 3-4 sets of 20 (10 each leg/direction). Below I’m going to give you my key takeaways for each movement, outside of breathing. Breathing for each rep is critical my babes!!
The key to a solid Birddog is stability. Before every lengthening of the arm and opposite leg, inhale a big breath then exhale and engage your core as you lengthen out. On the return, inhale as you bring your arm and leg back to the original position. Repeat your breath work with each rep. This Birddog doesn’t go elbow to knee, you only go back to your original position. Keep your hips in line! The best way to practice getting your hips in line is doing it in front of a mirror and watching your form. It seems like a very easy movement, but you’re working your inner core, stability and mind-muscle connection.
This is a body weight movement, so feel free to add it in on commercial breaks because life… is life right! Start on your back with your legs in the air, knees bent at a 90 degree angle and shins parallel to the ground. The key to remember with this is your lower back’s connection to the ground. Make sure it is glued to the ground, like nothing is getting under that lower back arch. Alternate tapping your toes to the ground, keeping your back flat on the ground therefore your ribs tight. This is where you’ll feel it. This movement works your TVA, transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of abdominal muscles and runs between the ribs and the pelvis. Again, inhale and engage, exhale on the way down and inhale on the way back up.
Weighted Knee Up Marches
K these are a game changer! I just started adding these into my routine and I’ve already noticed a difference in how my lower back feels throughout the day. The key for these is to engage your core (obviously) but tuck in your pelvis so your butt isn’t sticking out and arching your lower back. Grab one weight, if this exercise is new to you, start with a 5 or 10 lb dumbbell. Raise that dumbbell, engage your core, I like to hold my core with my other hand to actively feel it. Alternate bringing your knees up so your quad is parallel to the ground, while maintaining a tucked pelvis. Inhale as you bring your knee up, exhale as you lower.
Around the Worlds with a Kettlebell
I don’t know why but I’ve been sleeping on kettlebell movements. When I think of kettlebells, I think of swings, but they’re so much more than that! For this movement, there are two ways to start: standing or on your knees. I prefer standing but depending on how your lower back feels, you can definitely adjust. Start with a 10 or 15 lb kettlebell in your left hand, slowly and with control swing it around to your right hand, in a clockwise direction. You want to keep your core tight and engaged without your hips and body swaying with the kettlebell. Try 20 rotations clockwise and 20 counterclockwise.
These aren’t burners, you won’t be picking yourself off the ground with these movements. But overtime, you’ll feel the impact on your core, especially your inner core. I start my gym day with these as my warm ups. Try it out, tag @klonapparel if you do and let’s get functionally stronger babes!!